/’ab,strakt/ thinking

An abstract art show will put the spotlight on local artists while also introducing Ocala to a New York City (NYC) inspired movement that has been sweeping the nation.

The 8th Ave. Gallery is bringing a taste of NYC’s abstract art shows to Ocala in a collaborative effort that will feature six local artists. Seth Benzel, founder of the 8th Ave. Gallery, and Eliezer Jose “E.J.” Nieves, of Art House Ocala, are planning to have an opening of Views on Abstraction 2020 in April (though the exact date may be subject to change). The art will be available for viewing through June 4th, by appointment.

The event will introduce Ocala to a NYC-style art movement that has swept across the nation to communities like tiny Marfa, Texas—population 1,900—where residents support the work of local artists, largely due to the legacy of the late New York minimalist Donald Judd. People from all over the world visit Marfa because of the town’s art scene, says Benzel.

The same thing can happen in Ocala, he insists. Though the area already has the Appleton Museum of Art, the Webber Center Gallery and the Marion Cultural Alliance, Benzel says this is something different.

“I’m in support of all those things,” he says. “They are all examples of how Ocala is supporting the arts, but there’s a movement starting now that begins with 8th Ave. [Gallery] and Art House Ocala coming together. It’s artist driven—no censorship, free expression. The tipping point of this movement is that more artists are coming forward to be part of something new.”

The spark for the show ignited when Benzel connected with Nieves a few months ago.

“I had been to E.J.’s Neon Dreams show at Infinite Ale Works,” Benzel recalls. “It was very clear that he and I shared what I would call an artistic view of what Ocala could be when it came to an art movement backed and supported by artists. We feel it’s the start of something very unique in Ocala. We’re not looking outside of Ocala. We can create something really special here.”

Each artist will do three paintings, for a total of 18 in the show.

“Not only is this show representative of a movement, but it’s an opportunity for each artist to tackle the expression of art and its history in each one’s own individual way and style,” Benzel explains. “It’s an uncensored opportunity for them to express themselves.”

Abstract art was born in the late 19th century and took off with flying colors in the 20th century through the contributions of such notables as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and a host of other talented artists. According to an article posted on the Tate Museum’s website, “The word, abstract, suggests something vague, difficult, not easily grasped. But abstract art doesn’t have to be any of those things. On the contrary, an artist working in an abstract way might want to make something striking and beautiful, whisking us away from the humdrum realities of the everyday.”

Nieves couldn’t agree more. A commercial artist by trade, Nieves said he recently began painting for his personal enjoyment. After moving here from Orlando, he plunged into abstract art. Following a monthlong guerilla marketing effort with volunteers wearing psychedelic T-shirts and Nieves and artist Teddy Sykes donning ski masks—“for shock value,” Nieves says—more than 500 art lovers showed up at their Neon Dreams show in December.

For Nieves, that was only the beginning.

“Now, I’m allowing myself to paint in the moment,” he says. “Within the past six months, my time in Ocala has really helped me blossom. This is really a testament to what’s happening here.”

For Views on Abstraction 2020, Benzel and Nieves invited several artists who also show their work at Art House Ocala. 

Things To Know

WHAT: Views on Abstraction 2020 Art Show
WHEN: Due to COVID-19, postponed until further notice.  Follow 8th Avenue Gallery for an announcement when the show is rescheduled!
WHERE: 8th Ave. Gallery, 1531 NE 8th Ave.
PRICE: Free admission or call for an appointment, (518) 681-9347.

For more information, visit www.8thavegallery.com

The Artists

Seth Benzel — “My work is about infinite possibilities and is rooted in deconstructionist principles. There are two major elements, one being architecture and the other being expressive lines that represent the natural energy around us.”

E.J. Nieves — “My particular style is abstract expressionism. It’s created by a splatter-and-drip technique. I’m really working on nonrepresentational black-and-white, grayscale, a lot of monochromatic tones.”

John Caputo — “My approach, at its best, is a partnership with nature, I believe abstraction is an undercurrent that structures the universe.”

David D’Alessandris — “My work is derived from nature in very colorful patterns creating new shapes and images in a free-flowing manner. Every piece was started with one single line.”

Jordan Shapot — “I will have a little bit of representationalism in my work—things that you’ll recognize—but overall the pieces will be conceptually abstract.”

Teddy Sykes — “My natural style is surreal portraiture—almost photo realistic of a person—and I add elements of nature and fuse it into a painting. I will do a mixture of that with pure 100 percent abstraction.”

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